It may yet be some way away from reality but you have to recognise the ambition of St Patrick’s Athletic who yesterday released details of a plan to develop a 12,000 seat soccer stadium as the first floor of a new town centre development, just across the road from its existing Richmond Park home in Inchicore.
It would be comfortably the largest capacity ground within the SSE Airtricity League and the dream has been made possible by wrapping it into a potential urban regeneration, retail and housing development project for the St Michael’s Estate that will be one project submitted for consideration later this year to Dublin City Council.
St Pat’s main backer Garrett Kelleher is a property developer with a global portfolio and has sunk a personal investment into the club over the past 12 years that now stands at €3.7 million.
Club President Tom O’Mahony is the former Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport so knows a thing or three about major infrastructure projects and he said yesterday that “our proposal is a game-changer for Inchicore and, of course, for our Club.”
“It would give our supporters an ultra-modern stadium which would also be suitable for a wide range of community events. It would transform Inchicore and would realise the City Council’s vision of a vibrant, high-quality urban quarter.”
“We will now engage with the City Council to discuss our plans and we hope to have an opportunity to play a leading role in the regeneration of our neighbourhood”.
There is a need and a plan to develop the area with a mix of social and affordable housing at its heart, though how and with whom the development takes place will be a matter for the procurement and tendering process of the Council over the coming months.
The land at St Michael’s estate is Council owned and while the idea of a community-based club, albeit privately owned is attractive it will only be part of the mix of decisions that would need to be made.
The club statement issued yesterday said that the plan can adapt to “accommodate whatever housing density and mix is required by Dublin City Council while also providing the area with major retailers and leisure facilities, in addition to civic and community facilities.”
“The type of facilities to be provided will be agreed with the City Council but could include a library, indoor sports hall or civic theatre.”
Placing a UEFA Category Three football stadium on the first floor of a shopping centre is not something that immediately comes to mind but if the numbers work, and if it delivers the promised return to the community without a cost implication for the national or local government then it will go into the mix for consideration.
Previous plans for the development of grounds have fallen down on the detail and this would only be a few kilometres from the planned redevelopment of Dalymount Park between the FAI, City Council and Government as part of a regeneration of Phibsboro.
There are no doubt a hundred reasons why the project might not come to fruition but it is out there now in the public domain, backed by substantial international interests, and laying down a marker on how sport could form an important secondary consideration to the prime motivation of developing the area for residents.
It will definitely be one to watch in the coming months.